‘SLAUGHTER’ HOUSE: THE SCANDAL INSIDE ANZ

 

 

AWESOME Stuff … is it the case the right seem to cherish their ability and freedom to criticise organised labour at every opportunity?

That all ill-will, evil and criminality exists among the workers, and that the corporate sector is above the mud?

Is it the case business wish us believe it is on a noble quest to create wealth and build the economy?

Or is it the case a pathetic, dangerous and ruthless reality exists instead?

‘Slaughter’ house: The scandal inside ANZ

Porsches and $5 million bonuses, drinking and late-night visits to strip clubs — we go deep into one of Australia’s biggest-ever corporate investigations.

 

24 MAY 2019

 

 

 

It was a little past midnight and a silver Porsche Cayenne was doing doughnuts across the lush fairways of the five-star golf resort Chateau Elan.

A grey-haired man wearing an open-collared shirt was behind the wheel and he’d been drinking for six hours straight.

This wasn’t a high roller on a holiday bender — he was an investment banker named Steve Bellotti, and at the time he was the head of global markets at ANZ.

Mr Bellotti was at the Hunter Valley estate to deliver the opening speech to an exclusive conference in front of some of the bank’s most important clients.

The event was being paid for by the bank, which was hosting about 150 clients of its lucrative global markets division.

Inside the Porsche, ANZ’s 43-year-old head of investor sales, Patrick O’Connor (sitting behind Mr Bellotti) was feeling more and more uncomfortable.

For more than an hour he had watched hotel staff trying to get Mr Bellotti to call it a night. But, according to Mr O’Connor, Mr Bellotti had just kept going.

“At one stage [Mr Bellotti] challenged the night manager, by saying to him: ‘Do you know who I am?'” Mr O’Connor said.

Few knew it at the time, but back in Sydney, the corporate regulator was opening what would become one of the country’s biggest-ever investigations into alleged interest-rate rigging.

It was March 2013, just months after the UK’s own interest rate scandal broke, leading to senior resignations and massive fines on both sides of the Atlantic.

ASIC was conducting its own investigation into rate-rigging in Australia and it was looking closely at ANZ’s global markets team, led by Steve Bellotti.

Background Briefing has been given documents that show ANZ’s plans to thwart this investigation by driving divisions inside the corporate regulator.

Multiple whistleblowers have given candid accounts detailing a toxic culture of ego and ruthlessness with few apparent consequences for senior figures involved.

The Wild West

By the time Steve Bellotti joined ANZ in 2010, he’d already earned a colourful reputation as a successful investment banker across the world.

In London, according to one newspaper report, he’d gotten into a trading room brawl that left him with a black eye.

He had also reportedly rented out Richard Branson’s Caribbean island at a cost of $40,000 a day for his wedding. His 40th birthday was said to have lasted three weeks.

He was successful at his job. He loved money and he was good at making it.

The 48-year-old returned to Australia and was hired to lead ANZ’s global markets team.

Trips to strip clubs were not uncommon under Bellotti’s leadership, former traders from ANZ have told the ABC.

One club became known as “The Boardroom”, because, according to one employee, you were more likely to get one-on-one time with your boss there than in the office.

Inside ANZ, Mr Bellotti instituted a strategy he called “three in three”, where he aimed to lift revenue to $3 billion.

In 2011 a new trader was hired. His name was Etienne Alexiou and he took on a senior trading role. But the clean-cut 38-year-old trader got the feeling, almost immediately, that something was very different at ANZ.

“It felt a little bit like the Wild West, it felt a little bit like a caricature of investment banking with all the excesses, but none of the substance,” he explained.

One of the first things that caught his attention was trading-floor talk about “slaughtering the rate”.

Alleged manipulation

The rate in question was the BBSW, a benchmark used to set the interest on trillions of dollars in short-term loans between the banks, as well as many other corporate transactions.

“You hear it once or twice and you kind of go, ‘OK, someone’s having a bad day’, you hear quite a few times, you start to think: ‘Is this something that needs to be addressed?'” Mr Alexiou said.

It was supposed to be an independent rate, set by the market at the start of each trading day, during a five-minute window.

But the bank was accused of manipulating it and profiting from it. ANZ has always strenuously denied this.

In 2012, ASIC alleged otherwise. Recorded conversations seized by the regulator showed some ANZ traders discussing how they wanted to “ram the rate”.

“If we can f***ing jag, you know, three points on five billion, that’s half a million dollars just bang, done. People don’t understand half a million dollars. Paul’s up that for the year, you know? So we just need to f***ing do that. Especially on the f***ing rate sets,” one senior trader said.

On another call, in November 2011, another said: “We are trying to push the rate set lower today … and then higher tomorrow.”

As the investigation ramped up, ASIC began interviewing anyone who might be able to help in their investigation. The year was 2014.

One of those was Mr Alexiou. He assumed the interviews were confidential until one morning he bumped into a colleague.

“He repeated verbatim something I’d told ASIC the day before and it took me really by surprise because it was word for word,” he said.

“He said to me that ‘ASIC leaked like a sieve’.”

ANZ hired a Sydney law firm to represent its employees. The lawyers told ANZ about who was being interviewed, and when those interviews were taking place. On one occasion they did this before they told the interviewee — their client.

A spokesman for the law firm said at no time did it breach its clients’ privacy and at no time was confidential information provided to ANZ.

An ANZ spokesman said that at no stage did it seek to have its employees breach their legal confidentiality obligations.

The Luxford view

Meanwhile, senior figures at ANZ were devising a strategy to undermine ASIC’s investigator, Colin Luxford, and marginalise his views inside the regulator.

Mr Luxford believed the regulator had enough evidence around alleged rate manipulation to take the bank to court. The bank was focused on avoiding this.

In briefing notes from a May 2015 meeting, an ANZ executive explained the bank’s approach.

“It is on a knife edge at the moment. At ASIC, Colin Luxford is still the dominant view in the room,” he said.

“The objective is to shake the Luxford view with ASIC.”

According to the notes, ANZ chairman David Gonski was meeting with ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft in one-on-one meetings during this time.

“ASIC will want a bit of a win. The bank is trying to craft a solution the bank can live with that would be acceptable to ASIC,” the document states.

Eventually, in 2017 the bank did settle, admitting to “attempted unconscionable conduct”, and paid a $50 million fine.

The decision caused some disquiet inside ASIC. There was disagreement over the decision to settle. The ABC understands Mr Luxford felt like the regulator was selling out.

But in the final months before the settlement was reached, ASIC filed a 180-page court document containing excerpts of emails and other evidence.

It also contained allegations by ASIC that 38 ANZ employees had knowledge of or involvement in the alleged manipulation of the rate.

They ranged from relatively junior traders up to the bank’s senior executives, including Mr Bellotti and Shayne Elliott.

Most of the employees named in the court document accused of having knowledge of or involvement in the alleged rate manipulation were employed in the global markets division.

The allegations in this court filing were never tested at trial. The bank has always maintained it never manipulated the rate.

It did however admit to “attempted unconscionable conduct” by a small group of traders. This conduct occurred in Mr Bellotti’s backyard as he headed up the team.

We asked ANZ about whether there were any direct consequences for those involved in the BBSW scandal. It did not respond to that question.

But there were consequences for some. In 2014 seven traders were suspended pending the outcome of the investigation into rate manipulation.

Mr O’Connor, the man in the back seat of Mr Bellotti’s Porsche at Chateau Elan, noticed the list of those suspended did not include the management responsible for the division.

“I raised my concerns at the time as to the selection of those seven people. I felt as though there were certain individuals within the management structure that had responsibilities that should have been identified,” Mr O’Connor told Background Briefing.

He also remembers being called into a strange private meeting with a senior executive. The subject matter was his colleague Mr Alexiou.

“He went on then to ask me about what Etienne’s tolerance would be to potentially adverse media coverage. I had very little to offer,” he explained.

“I remember walking out thinking this is one of the weirdest meetings I’ve ever been to.”

Consequences

Mr Alexiou was one of those suspended at the bank. He was eventually fired, but his termination had nothing to do with the BBSW scandal — he was instead dismissed for making lewd remarks on the bank’s internal messaging system.

He later took the bank to court, where ANZ released transcripts of his chat messages.

 

Background Briefing has learned those transcripts were redacted and the full versions never became public. The snippets released out of context gave the conversations very different meanings.

“I was depicted as a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, a person of low moral character,” he says.

Mr Alexiou later sued the bank, but dropped his case.

Mr O’Connor was also brought into a meeting and terminated, accused of misusing his company credit card. The ANZ confronted him with receipts which showed he sold $18,000 worth of rare coins.

He admits he did do this, but says he was allowed to charge and then repay personal expenditure and it was approved by his manager.

“I’d maintain that it was a commonly accepted practice, it wasn’t prohibited under my employment contract, my expenses were always self-identified and reimbursed to the bank and fully approved by the bank,” he said.

Mr O’Connor is considering suing the bank.

What was galling for Mr Alexiou, Mr O’Connor and others in the division was that they were being fired while there seemed to be few consequences for more senior staff.

In their view, this was a clear double standard.

In the aftermath of the Hunter Valley incident, Mr Bellotti was given a more senior position at the bank — acting joint head of institutional and international banking, reporting directly to the chief executive.

He resigned within a year of ANZ’s BBSW scandal becoming public.

Mr Bellotti did not respond to questions about his time at ANZ and said the ABC should direct its questions to ANZ.

“I am unfortunately unable to comment,” he told the ABC.

ANZ did not answer any questions about Mr Bellotti directly but said in a statement that where evidence is provided that anyone has breached the code of conduct, it takes appropriate disciplinary action.

“This includes formal warnings, dismissal and, for more senior staff, bonuses being clawed back,” a spokesman said.

Mr Bellotti’s boss, Shayne Elliott, became chief executive just over a year after the allegations surfaced, and he was still in the top job when ANZ decided to settle with ASIC.

Do you know more? Email: christodoulou.mario@abc.net.au

Credits

  • Reporters: Mario Christodoulou and Elise Worthington
  • Researcher: Benjamin Sveen
  • Executive Producer: Alice Brennan
  • Supervising Producer: Ali Russell
  • Sound Engineer: Leila Shunnar/Simon Branthwaite
  • Editor: Ingrid Wagner
  • Digital Producer: Scott Mitchell

 

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EXTRA 600 APARTMENTS FOR BILLBERGIA WHOSE GENERAL MANAGER DONATES

Craig Stubbs, identified in a public document as Billbergia’s general manager, has donated almost $90,000 to both Labor and Liberal parties in the past three years through his company Bossy Blue Pty Ltd.

-donations included $4750 to a Drummoyne state election Liberal Party dinner; June 2018

-the other donations were largely for federal campaigns; developer donations are not prohibited by the Federal LNP

Billbergia says Mr Stubbs is not an officer of the company and donated in his private capacity

It would seem the money trail needs to be followed and investigated!

 

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Extra 600 apartments for developer whose general manager donates

 

 

The state government altered plans for a proposed housing development in Sydney’s inner west in ways that would allow a property developer whose general manager has made significant political donations to build at least another 600 apartments and probably many more.

The changes to the so-called Rhodes East planned precinct on the Parramatta River were favoured by Liberal Member for Drummoyne John Sidoti, the recipient of at least one of those donations.

Under previous plans released by the Department of Planning and Environment in September 2017 following more than a year’s consultation, residents could see proposed building heights encompassing 3600 apartments east of Rhodes railway station.

An artist's impression of the 2017 Rhodes East priority precinct proposal by the NSW government.
An artist’s impression of the 2017 Rhodes East priority precinct proposal by the NSW government.

 

But changed plans released in December 2018 included no suggested building heights or floor space ratios, while the scheme was expanded to add 600 apartments on land controlled by developer Billbergia west of Rhodes Station.

 

 

Craig Stubbs, identified in a public document as Billbergia’s general manager, has donated almost $90,000 to both Labor and Liberal parties in the past three years through his company Bossy Blue Pty Ltd.

The donations included $4750 to a Drummoyne state election Liberal Party dinner in June 2018. Mr Sidoti said he knew Mr Stubbs, but did not know he worked for Billbergia.

The other donations were mostly for federal campaigns, in which developer donations were not prohibited.

Developers and land-owners disadvantaged by the December changes, as well as staff at the Canada Bay Council, have pushed back against them.

These include Ecove, the company behind the cracked Opal Tower at Olympic Park, Rhodes Investment Group (RIG), which purchased property based on the 2017 plan, and the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution [RFBI] which owns an aged care home in Rhodes. The RFBI fears the changed plans will jeopardise its ability to upgrade an outdated facility.

It is illegal for property developers or “close associates” of developers to make donations in NSW elections.

Directors or officers of corporate developers are considered close associates of property developers. Mr Stubbs was a director of Billbergia Finance Corporation between 2011 and 2015.

Billbergia says Mr Stubbs is not an officer of the company and donated in his private capacity.

“We don’t want to see anybody’s business being damaged by innuendo about these things,” said Rick Graf, a Billbergia director.

“Billbergia as a developer does not make donations. For anyone to suggest otherwise, we will pursue them.”

Mr Graf said the 2018 plan did not favour Billbergia. He said it depended on Billbergia first spending on infrastructure.

“Giving us the ability to spend $60 million on public infrastructure before we can build apartments isn’t advantaging us – it’s advantaging the whole plan.”

The land proposed for the 2017 Rhodes East development. The December 2018 plan includes extra residential on Billbergia land west of the station.
The land proposed for the 2017 Rhodes East development. The December 2018 plan includes extra residential on Billbergia land west of the station.CREDIT:DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND THE ENVIRONMENT

 

 

The 2017 plan proposed high density mixed use and residential apartments east of Rhodes station, with lower building heights heading north toward the Parramatta River, and the retention of industrial sites also to the north.

Ecove had purchased a lot east of Rhodes station on which it thought it would be able to build a mixed residential tower.

Bobby Chegini, a director of RIG, said his company purchased a site next to Ecove’s after the 2017 exhibition.

Frank Price, the chief executive of RFBI, agreed with Ecove that a school could be built on the existing aged care site, while an aged care facility could be incorporated into Ecove’s development at the station.

“We were quite excited at the proposal of going closer to the railway station, having a new location where the residents are able to particulate in the day to day life of the community,” Mr Price said.

But the December plan zones Ecove and RIG’s land as commercial. Ecove says this would be unviable, as its site does not have large floor plates and car parking levels required in Rhodes.

When Ecove and RIG tried to raise their concerns with the Department of Planning, they were referred to Mr Sidoti. A spokesman told the Herald: “The local community has expressed concerns about keeping jobs at these sites through the local member.”

Although the government has not committed to an agreement with Billbergia, the developer has proposed a $360 million “voluntary planning agreement” to help fund an upgraded train station, a new school, and open space.

Mr Sidoti said the updated plan was better than the previous proposal because it included more infrastructure.”The last one was never going to stick to 3600 dwellings,” he said.

Canada Bay council staff strongly criticised the revised plan. A report last month said the added 600 apartments in Rhodes West “raises questions and transparency and landowner influence.”

NSW Labor and Liberal said they complied with campaign finance laws.

DECEMBER 2017 … THE GREENS CALLED FOR POLITICAL DONATION REFORM AFTER A LOOK AT MINISTER ROBERTS’ DIARY!

NSW PLANNING MINISTER, Anthony Roberts met with 53 PROPERTY DEVELOPERS or property interest groups between January and September in 2017, but not a single ordinary resident!

BIG POLITICAL DONORS INCLUDE MERITON, THE PROPERTY COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA, TOGA GROUP AND THE WALKER CORPORATION

The developer ban is limited to businesses that regularly put in development applications …

SO that if a subsidiary puts in the DA the large-scale developer, builder or commercial contractor is not affected!

 

 

Greens want donation reform after a look at minister’s diary

Image: Greater Sydney Community

 

NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts met with 53 property developers or property interest groups between January and September this year, but not a single ordinary resident, new information released by the Greens shows.

Together with large donations being made to political parties by developers, the Greens say it shows the system needs to change, and developer bans tightened.

In the last financial year, the Liberal Party, National Party and Labor in NSW received $2.5 million in donations from the property industry.

“Corporations don’t make donations because they love democracy,” Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge said. “They hand cash to politicians because that helps them make bigger profits.”

 

The Greens have released data on donations made to both the federal Liberal party and its state counterparts by developers or lobby groups since 2010, as well as the number of times they’ve met with the planning minister.

Since 2010, the data shows Walker Group has donated $475,000 to the federal and NSW Liberal parties, and this year met with the planning minister three times.

Meriton (Apartments and Property Services) has donated $226,000 since 2010, and met with the minister four times this year.

The Property Council of Australia has donated $65,290 since 2010 and met Mr Roberts once this year (though the PCA decided to ban all donations to governments at all levels from October 2016), while Toga Group donated $93,000 to the federal branch, and also met the minister once.

“Property developers are exploiting loopholes in the law to exert political influence,” Mr Shoebridge said.

He told The Fifth Estate a loophole involved donations going to the NSW branch of the federally registered party. The donations are unable to be spent on funding state elections, but Mr Shoebridge said they worked to “free up other donations to be spent on state elections”.

*The developer ban is also limited to businesses that regularly put in development applications.

*“You can be a large-scale builder or commercial contractor, and if your business doesn’t put in the DA, you’re not affected,” Mr Shoebridge said.

It’s business as usual

Mr Shoebridge told The Fifth Estate it was not unusual for NSW planning ministers’ meeting books to be skewed towards developers and other property industry stakeholders.

“It’s business as usual for planning ministers in NSW, and has been going on for well over a decade,” he said.

The skew may go some way to explain strange decisions like the recent watering down of building products legislation.

 

“That kind of decision that just pops out of nowhere – and on the face of it is contrary to the public interestcan only happen if ministers aren’t meeting with ordinary people.

“The other recent decision that shows how out of touch they are is knocking down and rebuilding two stadiums. You can be certain there are large development interests in that.”

Time to meet the hoi polloi?

Mr Shoebridge said it was time for the planning minister to have a more balanced meeting schedule and meet with local residents affected by planning decisions.

“We’ve been unable to find any evidence that he’s met with an ordinary resident.”

However, he said this wasn’t seen as controversial by others in the political establishment.

“People say, ‘He doesn’t have time to meet with ordinary people.’ They really don’t see a problem with it. People are looking to government to help them.

The fact that it is considered so chillingly normal by the political establishment shows the extent of the problem.”

Call to expand the ban

The Greens are also calling for nationally consistent laws around donations.

“The obvious first step is to extend the state ban federally,” Mr Shoebridge said. “That would straight away prohibit donations from the likes of Meriton, Toga and Walker Corporation.

“The second step is to put in place a much more robust definition of what constitutes a property developer. Any profit-driven company whose principal interest is property development should be covered.

Mr Shoebridge said there was a “strong argument” to include sectors that are prone to corruption, such as gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and the mining and resources sector.

“Australians are sick of the stranglehold donations have on politics,” he said.

“That is why they are rejecting the major parties in record numbers at election after election.”

The Queensland government recently announced it would ban developer donations, though the Property Council said all sectors needed to be treated equally.

“It is the view of the Property Council that if the threshold test for banning donations is whether or not there could be a perceived link between a political donation and the decision making of government, this perception would exist in relation to political donations made by other business sectors, community groups, environmental groups and unions at both local and state government levels,” PCA Queensland executive director Chris Mountford said.

PCA chief executive Ken Morrison said the peak body’s decision to stop donating to political parties was because donations had had “no impact on the success of our advocacy work, which is sustained on the merits of our research and policy activities”.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/business/government/greens-want-donation-reform-after-a-look-at-ministers-diary/97140/?fbclid=IwAR3wRUOsppCI2kzt3iCh7lFv-Idv9DWDer1rlvAki2xbFSb_BpOIGhAMkAg

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2012 … DEVELOPERS BUY ACCESS TO MINISTER ROBERTS

 

2012 … THE LUNCHES  took place at State Parliament in the months before Mr Roberts released a discussion paper in July on the upcoming overhaul of the HOME BUILDING ACT.  Its main recommendation was the winding back of ‘warranty insurance’ which currently protects home owners from shoddy builders.

DEVELOPERS each bid $2000 for access to him.

 

Developers buy access to minister

A STATE Government minister, Anthony Roberts, hosted lunches at Parliament House with prominent western Sydney property developers who had each bid $2000 for access to him.

Property developers have been banned from making political donations in NSW since 2010.

The businessmen who wrote cheques at a Liberal Party fund-raiser in April include Vic Cavasinni, the multi-millionaire owner of Cavasinni Constructions and Beechwood Homes, David Masterton of Masterton Homes and Peter Fowler of Fowler Homes, based at Wetherill Park.

David Masterton of Masterton Homes with father Jim Masterton in the background.
David Masterton of Masterton Homes with father Jim Masterton in the background.

 

The Liberal Party insisted yesterday that the cheques paid had not been cashed after suspicion that laws around property developer donations would be breached.

Nevertheless, the party confirmed that the lunches with Mr Roberts, the Fair Trading Minister, had been auctioned at a fund-raiser, that cheques were accepted and the meetings went ahead.

Details of the lunches will be an embarrassment for the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, who has tried to distance his government from the era of commercial sleaze associated with Labor and the property developer fraternity.

It will also heap more pressure on Mr Roberts, who was recently rebuked by the Premier who said ”wannabe Joe Tripodis” had no place in his government.

 

Auction … the minister, Anthony Roberts.
Auction … the minister, Anthony Roberts.

 

Mr Roberts is also embroiled in claims he verbally assaulted a female staff member, causing her ”severe psychological trauma”.

*His lunches took place at State Parliament in the months before Mr Roberts released a discussion paper in July on the upcoming overhaul of the Home Building Act. Its main recommendation was the winding back of warranty insurance which currently protects home owners from shoddy builders. The reform is seen as a potential boon for the struggling home-construction sector and is supported by builders.

Mr Cavasinni, who attended a lunch at Parliament House with Mr Roberts in April, said he had bid on behalf of a friend who wanted to talk about concerns over hidden building costs and bushfire limitations. He told The Sun-Herald he had already had an impromptu meeting with Mr Roberts over coffee at the well-known Smithfield Italian restaurant Candelori’s.

”He walked into the restaurant with [Smithfield MP] Andrew Rohan and came over to where I was sitting. We had a coffee and I expressed some concerns I had with the Home Building Act. He agreed there were some anomalies,” Mr Cavasinni said. ”He seemed like a good bloke and was happy to hear about some of the trials and tribulations of completing homes in NSW.”

Peter Fowler, of Fowler Homes, confirmed he had bid $2085 for lunch with Mr Roberts but had yet to arrange a date. Mr Fowler said he believed the money had been drawn from his personal account by the Liberal Party. A Liberal Party spokeswoman said: ”From the information we’ve been provided from Smithfield, we understand no money has been accepted and that no laws have been breached.”

Mr O’Farrell’s office refused to comment but a spokesman for Mr Roberts said: ”The minister meets with a range of stakeholders as part of his duties. Community and industry consultation is a key part of the policy formulation process. At all times he has been compliant [with] the relevant legislation.” He declined to comment on what had been discussed at the lunch.

The affair began at Candelori’s on April 11 when Mr Roberts was the drawcard at a $850-a-table fund-raiser. According to the invite, money raised would go to the election fund of Mr Rohan, whose electorate office is just doors away from Candelori’s on the Horsley Drive, Smithfield. The lunch was arranged by Mr Rohan’s electorate officer, Zaya Toma, a Fairfield councillor seeking re-election.

Property developers cannot contribute a cent to political parties. Under a law passed in 2010, individuals or corporations that ”regularly make planning applications” are banned.

Mr Toma said about half the cheques taken on the day had been returned so far.

Tania Mihailuk, Labor’s spokeswoman for fair trading, said: ”It defies belief that the minister responsible for reviewing the state’s home builders legislation would take paid meetings with developers. There can be no excuse. It’s becoming clearer that developers are calling the shots in Barry O’Farrell’s government.”

Correction: The original version of this story said that Zaya Toma was Andrew Rohan’s chief of staff.

 

Heath Aston is the environment, energy and corporate correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

 

SOURCE:  https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/developers-buy-access-to-minister-20120901-2578v.html

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Complaints about PRIVATE CERTIFIERS rise ahead of proposed changes to system

 

GOOD!  Communities are finally bombarding Councils over PRIVATE CERTIFIERS … not too soon!

HOWEVER, why not get to the “nitty-gritty”, the core, where all this festered from?

And BOMBARD the PLANNING MINISTER’s OFFICE with your all too numerous complaints??

Private certification was introduced in 1998 enabled by the EP&A 1979 followed by a number of amendments, and then with the NSW LNP Government White Paper April 2013 to boost “economic growth” for developers hence this is what Sydneysiders have to contend with now!

The Berejiklian Government has merely proposed a different process for appointing certifiers.  For the community to choose one of three options:

-certifiers selected at random

-a list with the appointment of the “next off the rank” certifier

-a time limit for the certifier to work for the same developer (client)

WHEN really much of this new wave of development ought be pulled apart before completion!

As more projects are built, questions about how certifiers work are raised. Photo: James Alcock

Complaints about private certifiers rise ahead of proposed changes to system

Certifiers are rushing to approve developments ahead of swingeing new rules that could smash the cosy relationships between developers and the people who approve their buildings, say Sydney residents.

THE BISHOP’s RING: Catholic leader’s political influence alarms

PRIME MINISTERS sing his praises, property developers beat a path to his historic mansion and powerbrokers complain of “literally” having to kiss his ring.

Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, is the leader of Australia’s Catholic Maronites.

One parishioner referred to the Bishop as a cleric with a coterie of wealthy property developers.

A former politician referred to a very tangled web between property developers, political movers and shakers and the church.

Since the retirement of two Maronite MPs, and with the incarceration of Eddie Obeid the Bishop has been agitating for new Maronite representation at all levels of government.

The Bishop has Liberal party figures assisting with an affordable housing project

-he has nominated aged care as a top priority for his church

-with two Church projects  having received $10 million in construction grants from the federal government

READ more for who’s who in the Maronite property developer sector!

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Former state Liberal MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire, left, and Sydney developer Charlie Demian outside the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

 

 

Canterbury-Bankstown councillor George Zakhia, who sits on the board of a Maronite affordable housing project, attending Bishop Tarabay's Strathfield home.
Canterbury-Bankstown councillor George Zakhia, who sits on the board of a Maronite affordable housing project, attending Bishop Tarabay’s Strathfield home. CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

 

 

The bishop’s ring: Catholic leader’s political influence alarms

 

Prime ministers sing his praises, property developers beat a path to his historic mansion and powerbrokers complain of “literally” having to kiss his ring.

Meet Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, the controversial Catholic bishop whose pursuit of power and influence is raising concerns from the corridors of Macquarie Street to the pews of Punchbowl.

Since his anointment by Pope Francis as the leader of Australia’s Catholic Maronites in 2013, some parishioners have become increasingly troubled by what they see as Bishop Tarabay’s preoccupation with matters material rather than spiritual.

Then prime minister Tony Abbott kissing a crucifix held out by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay at a Good Friday church service.
Then prime minister Tony Abbott kissing a crucifix held out by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay at a Good Friday church service. CREDIT:LOUISE KENNERLEY

 

“The bishop just loves people who splash the cash,” said one parishioner, referring to the cleric’s coterie of wealthy property developers. “The No.1 currency of the bishop is cash.”

“He does cosy up to developers and the big end of town, but so he should, because they will kick in to help build his church empire,” another said.

 

 

 

Sources associated with St Maroun’s College at Dulwich Hill have told the Herald they had raised concerns about financial irregularities dating back years.

They include allegations of cash payments made by the school to senior church figures, transfers of funds to Lebanon and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from international students that were paid in cash but not properly accounted for.

A St Maroun’s spokeswoman said “the college’s accounts are independently audited annually and have always returned an unqualified opinion” and that the school was co-operating fully with the current audit.

In the first part of a Herald investigation into the Maronite church, its leader Bishop Tarabay emerges as a political player keen on wielding influence and furthering the interests of wealthy figures within his Lebanese Maronite community.

Local politicians have told of their surprise when they turned up to lunches at the bishop’s imposing Strathfield residence, only to find their host had placed them next to property developers keen to discuss projects.

“It’s in Tarabay’s interest to play matchmaker,” said one former councillor who had attended the lunches.

“You’d go to a church event and Tarabay would lobby you on behalf of developers,” said another. “He’s power hungry and very pushy.”

Bishop Tarabay leads a procession at the Good Friday Mass of Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Harris Park, in 2014.
Bishop Tarabay leads a procession at the Good Friday Mass of Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Harris Park, in 2014. CREDIT:BEN RUSHTON

 

Bishop Tarabay said he did not accept characterisations of himself as a lobbyist or conduit for property developers.

As for the lunches, he said: “It is not uncommon in Australian society for politicians and business people to attend functions, and there is no reason why Australians of Lebanese heritage should be treated differently.”

A former Canterbury councillor recalled the bishop attending a council meeting several years ago and sitting near Charlie Demian, a property developer who is now embroiled in a corruption inquiry that is examining deals done at the same council.

The bishop just loves people who splash the cash.

Parishioner

When the Herald separately asked Mr Demian and the bishop as to why they were attending a council meeting together, the pair responded with different recollections of topics to be addressed.

Mr Demian, who had owned land next to the church in Punchbowl, recalled Bishop Tarabay attending a discussion about rezoning the future site of an aged-care centre.

The bishop, however, remembered attending because a “severe rodent plague” at Mr Demian’s property was troubling a Maronite school next door.

Mr Demian was later acting on the board of a Maronite aged-care project when his company won a $7 million contract to help build it.

Newspaper proprietor and developer Anwar Harb, a one-time business partner of disgraced former MP Eddie Obeid, confirmed that he had led a delegation of prominent Maronite businessmen to Lebanon, where they lobbied the church patriarch to secure Bishop Tarabay’s ascension to the top job.

Mr Harb, a close adviser to the bishop, dismissed talk of any preference for the wealthy.

“I am telling you, he has no preference between a poor person and a rich person. He loves everyone, he is a man of God.”

Bishop Tarabay with Pope Francis, who anointed him head of Australia's Maronite Catholic Church in 2013. 
Bishop Tarabay with Pope Francis, who anointed him head of Australia’s Maronite Catholic Church in 2013. CREDIT:FACEBOOK

 

George Ghossayn, the demolition and excavation magnate who gave Obeid a character reference at his sentencing, initially denied donating his black S500 Mercedes to the bishop. He later admitted the bishop had indeed inherited his Mercedes after he upgraded to a Bentley.

The bishop had a prime seat at the award ceremony when Sarkis Nassif was named by developers as property person of the year in 2017. The man of the cloth also featured in a celebratory video for Dyldam’s Joe Khattar when he won that gong the previous year.

Bishop Tarabay was a co-founder of Dyldam’s main charity vehicle, the GNK Foundation, which is now at risk of losing its registration over failing to submit financial records to the charity watchdog.

But while he is still listed as “lifetime patron” on the website, the bishop said he no longer played any role in the charity.

‘Stay out of politics’

Born in 1967 in the north Lebanon village of Tannourine, Bishop Tarabay chose the life of a monk, joining the Lebanese Maronite Order.

After serving as principal of St Charbel’s at Punchbowl, he received a dispensation to leave the order and become bishop. He won the post over a more favoured candidate after some international lobbying efforts by the likes of Mr Harb and Mr Khattar from Dyldam developments.

“It was like an airtrain,” a former politician said of the convoys of backers making the journey to Beirut.

*“There’s a very tangled web of relations between property developers, political movers and shakers and the church.”

Bishop Tarabay said he had “no direct knowledge” of who visited Lebanon to lobby for him and had not asked anyone to do so.

But he certainly has connections in high places. Cardinal George Pell wrote the foreword to his book on bioethics.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently dined at the bishop’s home.

Tony Abbott, as prime minister, knelt before him to kiss a proffered crucifix.

 

Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who described him as "generous and kind-hearted". 
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who described him as “generous and kind-hearted”. CREDIT:FACEBOOK

 

And current Prime Minister Scott Morrison accompanied him to Lebanon to celebrate his ordination, meeting his parents and praising in Parliament the sacrifice of “this generous and kind-hearted Sydney bishop”.

*But since the retirement of two Maronite MPs and the departure of the now-incarcerated Eddie Obeid, Bishop Tarabay (who featured regularly in Obeid’s diaries) has been agitating for new Maronite representation at all levels of government.

“He’s very political, that’s his fixation, and he’s obsessed with getting his people into positions of power,” said one current state member.

Political operatives from both sides have spoken of the bishop demanding to be treated deferentially, viewing himself as a kingmaker.

“We definitely had to pay homage to him,” a former Labor heavyweight said. “It was literally like kissing the ring. It was like going to see the Godfather.”

The bishop’s recent protege was Gisele Doumet, who travelled to Lebanon in 2016 with senior Labor party figures including NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley.  The tour was organised by Bishop Tarabay, the Herald has been told.

The bishop has touted Ms Doumet for several seats, most recently Parramatta, according to several sources. Mr Foley, when challenged on his enthusiastic support for Ms Doumet, has replied that she had the backing of the bishop.

“The Maronite Bishop of Australia has made clear to senior figures his support for ­Gisele Doumet,” Mr Foley told News Corp in May.

But he was ultimately overruled by head office, despite the suggestion that tens of thousands of Maronite votes would be lost if the bishop’s candidate was not preselected.

Ms Doumet said she was not running for preselection in any seat and was not aware of any previous efforts by the bishop to promote her.

One parishioner, who was annoyed over the bishop’s attempt to have Labor consider Ms Doumet for Parramatta, said he told the bishop recently: “your role is to nourish the flock – stay out of politics”.

Bishop Tarabay rejected suggestions that he had been overly political.

“The only Maronite vote I have the ability to direct is my own. However, as an Australian and as a community leader, I consider it appropriate to make representations to political leaders on behalf of the community I lead on matters of social importance,” he said.

“I have provided encouragement to a number of political candidates from within my community who aspire to serve in political life.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Party figures are assisting the bishop with his dreams of an affordable housing project.

Controversial former Bankstown councillor Jim Daniel – found not guilty of a smear campaign against a Labor candidate involving paedophilia allegations – is one director of the church’s Kadishat Housing venture.

Also on the board are current Canterbury-Bankstown councillors George Zakhia and Charbel Ishac.

When asked about their appointments, the bishop said simply: “they offered their services”.

Canterbury-Bankstown councillor George Zakhia, who sits on the board of a Maronite affordable housing project, attending Bishop Tarabay's Strathfield home.
Canterbury-Bankstown councillor George Zakhia, who sits on the board of a Maronite affordable housing project, attending Bishop Tarabay’s Strathfield home. CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

*Aged-care ambitions

Bishop Tarabay has nominated aged care as a top priority for his church. However, two church projects, which have received $10 million in construction grants from the federal government, have brought together a series of names heard in recent hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. (ICAC)

The current ICAC inquiry Operation Dasha has heard that Mr Demian, the property developer, was receiving help from the disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, who promised to link him up with a “mega rich” Chinese funder.

Former state Liberal MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire, left, and Sydney developer Charlie Demian outside the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Former state Liberal MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire, left, and Sydney developer Charlie Demian outside the Independent Commission Against Corruption. CREDIT:JANIE BARRETT

 

Mr Demian also stands accused of receiving favourable outcomes from the former Canterbury council.

Last June, he was appointed to the board of St Charbel’s Care Centre Ltd, the company that has received a $2.7 million grant to help build a Maronite church nursing home in Punchbowl.

The development site was one that Mr Demian knew well. He had sold it to the church for $2 million in 2010 (Bishop Tarabay’s was one of the signatures on a transfer document) and developed 87 villas on the surrounding property.

Not only was Mr Demian on the nursing home’s board of directors, but he also co-owned a company that then won a $7 million contract to help build it.

His co-owner in that venture was his lawyer Charbel Azzi, who is now busy defending Mr Demian against tax assessments of more than $35 million. Mr Azzi also has directorships on several Maronite charity boards and said his work on the aged-care construction was also entirely pro bono.

Mr Demian quit as a director of the aged-care project and the construction company in May, a month before public hearings at ICAC began.

Mr Demian said he left for personal reasons and that there had been no conflict of interest in his firm receiving a construction contract from a board he sat on.

“The works contract awarded was based on a stringent tender process to undertake the construction works on a free margin costs basis,” he said.

“I received no financial benefits, and all works done was on a voluntarily basis, hence no conflict of interest could arise.”

The design firm on the project – employing “traditional Lebanese housing typologies” – belonged to the brothers Marwan and Ziad Chanine, who are being investigated by ICAC over another development approval.

Council documents show the contact for the project was Barry Barakat, a banker and property investor who serves as a director of another Maronite nursing home project alongside the bishop.

Mr Barakat said all his work was provided pro bono, while the Chanine architecture firm had been chosen for its previous charitable work and “on the basis of their experience and culturally sensitive knowledge for the particular project brief”.

ICAC investigators have been looking into a potentially corrupt development decision relating to a project from which Mr Barakat and the Chanine family stood to benefit, as well as the Labor Party fixer Bechara Khouri.

Mr Khouri, who has appeared as a witness in three ICAC inquiries, received a retainer of up to $15,000 a month to lobby councillors on behalf of Mr Demian. He also represented the Chanines’ interests.

Not being a Maronite himself has not stopped Mr Khouri from making contacts at Maronite church functions.

It was at the Our Lady of Lebanon church in Harris Park that he first met Mr Demian, ICAC has heard.

The current ICAC inquiry continues and no findings have been found against any person named in this article.

Bishop Tarabay, when asked about the appointments of figures to the aged-care project, said “I had no responsibility for this project and was not consulted in relation to any decisions made about the matters raised”.

On Monday, part two of the Herald’s investigation into the Maronite church looks at a school under fire for financial irregularities and the rehabilitation centre that never got built.

 

DO YOU KNOW MORE?

 

Kate McClymont is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Patrick Begley is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/the-bishop-s-ring-catholic-leader-s-political-influence-alarms-20181005-p5080m.html

 

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Left Hanging … How they’re killing the KOALAS OF WILTON

HOUSING AT ALL COSTS SEEMS TO BE THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING’S MOTTO 

KEY POINTS:

-relentless semi trailer and car traffic barrelling through core koala habitat

-koalas are now facing a 17,000-lot residential development to engulf this rural area

-court transcripts indicate the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017

Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees

-Council Environmental Officer on viewing the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions

QUESTIONS  raised for the DOPE …

HOW can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

WHY were the Walker zones rammed though with so many unresolved issues?

… Obviously they are happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.

AND MUCH MORE!

LEFT HANGING … HOW THEY’RE KILLING THE KOALAS OF WILTON

NEIGHBOURHOOD

Sunday, 30th September 2018

 

Text: Mick Daley

 

Stand on busy Picton road at the bridge over Allens Creek, near Wilton NSW and you’ll get a picture of what a koala has to deal with to get to its feed trees. The relentless semi-trailer and car traffic barreling through this core koala habitat has resulted in at least twelve koala deaths over the past two years. But that’s nothing compared to what they’re facing when an anticipated 17,000-lot residential development engulfs this rural area.

The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) has designated this as the Wilton Priority Growth Area under its Western City District Plan. Just 80km south west of the Sydney CBD, it’s part of the NSW government’s vote-winning solution to the city’s congestion and housing problem. But it’s coming at a high cost.

The Department of Office Environment and Heritage (OEH), the Rural Fire Service (RFS), an independent scientist and the local Wollondilly Council have all weighed in against the existing proposal, saying it goes against long-standing scientific advice and ignores State planning laws. It also threatens the survival of the largest chlamydia-free koala population in NSW.

The DPE’s developer, the Sydney-based Walker Corporation has twice been successfully prosecuted for having illegally cleared areas of sensitive koala habitat, earning them the largest such fine in NSW history. That’s just one of a raft of irregularities that have plagued this controversial project.

Wollondilly Shire Council has lodged an appeal against the DPE in the Land and Environment Court, saying that the rezoning of land in the Wilton South East Precinct ignores scientific advice from the OEH.

Judith Hannan, the Wollondilly Shire Mayor, says Council is not against the development at Wilton. “We’re asking for the reversal of the rezoning, until we get a solid conservation plan sorted out. We feel like there’s a tidal wave coming at us and the koalas are sitting in the path of it.”

Hannan says that long term planning has been inadequate for such a large-scale development and there are insufficient jobs and infrastructure to support it. “There is no reliable public transport to the area, no provision for employment, no integrated health service. How many other things would you like? It’s a nightmare and we don’t have much ability to stop it.”

She says that the koala road-kill problem is at crisis-point. “Even during the last council meeting, someone sent us a live photo of a koala in Appin in the service station and that evening that koala was dead on the road. It was horrendous.”

Councillor Matthew Deeth goes a step further.

“It beggars belief how the planning department makes these decisions. There’s no transparency at all and there’s no response to any of the concerns that council has raised,” he says. “I can’t point to any letters or anything to show they’ve even considered any of our concerns.”

Council’s environmental education officer, Damion Stirling has been at the coal-face of this issue.

“What triggered this for us was the southeast Wilton rezoning (from rural to residential),” he says. “We weren’t informed (by DPE) when that rezoning dropped, we found out through social media. They’ve (DPE) made reference that council had been consulted, but any submissions made were not adopted.

“They even reference measures to minimizing the impact on koalas, but they’re words on the page and we haven’t seen that detail.”

Stirling showed me the roadkill hotspot at Allen’s Creek, in the southeast tip of the proposed development. He says the creek constitutes part of an east-west running corridor that is vital to the survival of these koalas.

This was identified as far back as 2005 as a likely primary koala corridor by Professor Rob Close of the University of Western Sydney, with sightings going back into the Nineties.

The Wilton area was officially recognised as a primary koala corridor in 2007, by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), the precursor of the OEH.

 

An OEH spokesperson has confirmed that core koala habitat and primary movement corridors have been identified within this region.

In mid-2016 a pilot study between Appin and Wilton found eight koalas in a week. That was enough information for OEH to fund the Wilton Koala Conservation Project, granted $200,000 from the Saving Our Species fund – the second highest funded project in the state. It’s tracked koalas through the area, specifically along Allen’s Creek, which features a good selection of koala feed trees.

Cate Ryan, a long-time WIRES carer, knows the inevitability of koalas seeking food or mates in the vicinity of Picton Road.

“They’re trying to disperse to other areas and they’re becoming roadkill. The issue with all the koalas is if they become landlocked they’ve got no escape. There’s no feed for them, so they’re coming out onto the roads and they’re getting killed. If they’ve got no underpasses or overpasses they can’t get to other breeding stock, so they become genetically compromised, because they start inbreeding. We’ve already noticed some conditions – smaller koalas, smaller eyes and irregular eye shapes.

“There’s no food out there and what’s up here is dying because of the drought. It’s horrible. I’d hate to be a koala.”

Ryan says the biggest fear is that chlamydia-infected koalas from colonies to the south may move towards Wilton for the same reasons, compromising the health of the local koalas.

“Because these guys here are disease free, they could be used in breeding programs as stock to repopulate areas where they’ve been decimated by disease. There’s a whole lot of things we can look at for the future with these guys, but unless they’re protected, there’s nothing.”

Underneath the highway bridge at Allen’s Creek, Stirling points out a huge culvert that would provide safe access for wandering males and breeding females with back-young, searching for the increasingly rare food trees they need to survive.

“It’s one thing to protect koalas from road kill, but we need to be feeding them into quality habitat corridors that will enable their dispersal,” he said.

“This creek line corridor links all the way down to the Nepean on the other side of Douglas Park. At the northern end of it is the St Mary’s Towers biobank site. There’s breeding females with back-young on there as we speak, identified by OE&H.”

Stirling observes how easily this infrastructure could be adapted to a koala corridor. “Down here you can see the scats and footprints of kangaroos and stuff, so it’s already being used by fauna.

“From Roads and Maritime Services’s point of view, this is an easy win. Even that concrete barrier on the bridge up there is enough to stop a koala trying to cross the road.”

 

But the development planned by DPE favours a corridor bisecting 23 hectares of land, illegally cleared by the Walker Corporation in 2005. According to Land and Environment Court transcripts they were fined $200,000 for that transgression, at that time one of the largest fines for illegal clearing of vegetation in NSW.

In 2011 Walker were fined an additional $80,000 for illegal clearing at Appin, where their current rezoning proposal is.

Court transcripts indicate that DPE used the same land clearing contractor for both jobs and that the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017.

Councillor Deeth points out that Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees. He says Council is privy to the process followed by OEH, who warned against the DPE proposal.

“They gave advice to the DPE that the Allen’s Creek corridor was the best option for the koalas. The DPE has ignored their advice and instead hired an outside team of consultants to give them another result, an act which I believe is unprecedented in this field.

The OEH is supposed to provide the environmental data and advice to the DPE, to be incorporated into the overall planning. But the OEH has been reduced from a department in its own right to an office advising the DPE and even this status appears to have been sidelined.”

The DPE not only ignored their own environmental office’s advice, but appear to be flouting State Environmental Planning Proposal 44 (SEPP 44). Under that law the DPE is obliged to do a site-specific koala plan and the rezoning of the land should not have happened until a biocertification and vegetation mapping process had been completed.

The reason this has not been completed involves a Kafka-esque bureaucratic turn that belongs in the realm of fiction.

When the state government’s new Biodiversity Act came into force on 24 August last year, Wollondilly Council received a phone call from DPE, telling them its growth area was exempt from the Act for a further 12 months – until the biocertification process was completed.

“We were told the biocertification process would be completed by Feb 2018, then it was June, but it still hasn’t been completed,” said Stirling. “We’ve now been told that the Act won’t come into force until November, 18 months later.”

While the DPE’s rezoning ignores SEPP 44, it also sidelines advice from the Rural Fire Service that the bushland southeast of the proposed development is a major fire risk and would require an exit road bisecting the DPE’s proposed koala corridor.

If the reader were to fancy that the DPE has not been taking this process seriously, they should consider that in January 2018, Wollondilly Council received a draft Development Control Plan (DCP) from DPE. Rather than sending a new document, specifically designed to reflect the area’s ecological sensitivities, they instead sent a tracked changes version of Blacktown Growth Area’s DCP. On the last page was a single picture and two sentences about koalas.

Apart from this slapdash approach, Stirling claims DPE’s process ignores four key recommendations of the NSW chief scientist’s 2016 report – a crucial direction being that the proponents of development must act on evidence.

Indeed, Stirling observes that when he recently looked for submissions over the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website, he discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions.

“So Council are now GIPAA-ing (Government Information Public Access Act) for those reports and all other submissions around koala habitat that were part of this rezoning.”

Stirling says that even the week before the rezoning, he’d been at a round table meeting called by the DPE to discuss conserving koalas in the region.

“There was no mention that the land around Allen’s Creek was going to be rezoned the following week.”

Stirling has a lot of unanswered questions for the DPE.

“We’re questioning how can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

“Why have the DPE proceeded in rezoning this land before that work is finished, on such a significant project?

“Why was that project not profiled in the NSW Koala Strategy, considering it was one of the largest koala funded projects in the state?”

“We’re saying the DPE plan is not appropriate,” he concludes. “It doesn’t even consider that koalas move through the canopies of trees. How are they going to fence the middle of that bushland there to stop the koalas?

“We have to work out what the transition is between protected koala habitat and urban areas. We’ve already got a number of threats – eight koalas killed in eight weeks on Appin Rd, last year 14 koalas killed in two months, so that’s the major threat at the moment. The next threat is development wiping out habitat, then dog attack, fires, weed invasion, so we’re trying to get ahead of the game and say, ok we know where the habitat is, let’s protect it now. We have the knowledge to do best practice, let’s do it, let’s find a balance between conservation and development for housing.”

Councillor Deeth, too, has searching questions.

“I understand that OEH scientists were being pressured from above to tone down their reports to the DPE,” he said.

“Council had an extraordinary meeting a couple of months ago. Our resolution was to GIPAA the government to get the exact communications, exactly what advice was given and what was the response from the DPE around that issue. My understanding was there was real pressure coming from much higher up the chain and we want to understand how their decisions were made.

“Housing at all costs seems to be the department of planning’s motto at the moment. We don’t even know what sort of density we’re looking at within these zones. All we’re suggesting is we want a pause to get this right. There’s nothing wrong with taking a bit more time to actually get it right. You can see from every provision there’s a heap of unresolved issues.

“We have no idea why the Walker zones were rammed though with so many unresolved issues. They’re happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.

“We have very little say in this whatsoever. The only thing we’ve got left is advocacy and letting people know what we’re not happy about.”

SOURCE:  https://neighbourhoodpaper.com/placement/featured/left-hanging-killing-the-koalas-of-wilton/

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CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADS LAND GRAB IN WILTON WITH $17 MILLION DEAL

KEY POINTS:

-the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong paid $17.34M for 44 hectare Wilton site

-the Wilton property has seen capital growth of $15.44 million in 11 years

-the church bought the property as a strategic acquisition; an investment for future growth

the site is still zoned for rural use;  tipped to be rezoned after critical infrastructure is delivered

-the median house price in Wilton is $808,400

 

Which company paid $7.4M for a major Wilton deal in June 2017?

HAS the Catholic Church been an Insider at the “Planning Round Table”?  In a strategic move to top up Church coffers after onselling rezoned “Residential Land” at Wilton?

 

CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADS LAND GRAB IN WILTON WITH $17 MILLION DEAL

December 7, 2017

The Wilton property has seen capital growth of $15.44 million in 11 years.

The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong has paid $17.34 million for a “strategic” 44-hectare site in the Macarthur region, 80 kilometres south west of Sydney, crushing the suburb record in the process.

The property at 570 Picton Road, Wilton, which has a five-bedroom house, last sold for $1.9 million in 2006, according to Domain Group data.

That same year, the previous price record in Wilton was set by the $8.9-million sale of 15 Janderra Lane to the Walker Corporation, which will be developing the south-east precinct of the Wilton Priority Growth Area.

The land occupies more than 44 hectares. Photo: SuppliedThe land occupies more than 44 hectares. Photo: Supplied

Selling agent Tim Knapp, of Knapp and Associates, said the buyer, who was seeking similar properties within the area, bought the property as an “investment for future growth”.

“The purchasers acquire property within areas that they feel will enhance the community,” he said.

“In time the purchasers will build on the site but it is undetermined what they will build at this point.”

A map of the Wilton Priority Growth Area plans. Source: NSW PlanningA map of the Wilton Priority Growth Area plans. Source: NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Although the area has been earmarked as a future growth precinct, the site is still zoned for rural use; the area is tipped to be rezoned after critical infrastructure is delivered.

“What this was acquired for was not really residential development, but more a strategic acquisition for the purchaser.”

More than 16,000 homes, two primary schools and four childcare centres are part of the building plans in Wilton New Town, which is expected to be the size of Port Macquarie after a 30-year development project.

More than 16,000 new homes will be built in the Wilton New Town development. Image: SuppliedMore than 16,000 new homes will be built in the Wilton New Town development. Image: Supplied

Wilton New Town is expected to rival Port Macquarie after development completes. Image: SuppliedWilton New Town is expected to rival Port Macquarie after development completes. Image: Supplied

“This is a very exciting time and Sydney needs to implement plans to sustain the population growth in the coming years,” Mr Knapp said.

The sale is among multiple recent major deals in Wilton, including a $7.4-million land sale in June 2017, as the small town’s big plans lure investors.

“There’s a lot of activity in Wilton and a lot of developers looking around,” Mr Knapp said.

“Wilton is such a strong growth area at the moment, similar to Bringelly (and) Leppington.”

The locally based agent added that because of housing shortage in metropolitan Sydney, Wilton was not the only suburb in the region that was growing.

“Within the past five years, the government has released large tracts of land for housing in suburbs in the Macarthur region such as Gregory Hills and Oran Park.

“These areas in the last few years have developed into vibrant communities.”

The median house price in Wilton is $808,400, Domain Group data shows.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/news/catholic-church-leads-land-grab-in-wilton-with-17-million-deal/

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FROM FARMER TO LAND BARON, thanks to planning racket

THE GAME OF MATES is all about developers buying access to politicians to have land sites especially farmlands upzoned for residential. The only reason why the Troutbeck family’s land is worth so much is because the government has rezoned it residential.

THE sell-off (FIRB Reg.) of Australian property to wealthy foreign buyers, and with foreign developers competing for Australian land sites this has disadvantaged discriminating against a whole Cohort of Australian first home buyers.  Another consequence being the exhaustion of land sites!

Country Garden's future Windermere estate will provide 7500 homes.

From farmer to land baron, thanks to planning racket

By Leith van Onselen

Back in November, The AFRreported that first-home buyers (FHBs) were desperately fighting for land in Melbourne as the city’s population soars.

Then in December, The AFR reported that the median price for a housing lot in Melbourne had hit $318,500 – up 31.5% over past 12 months – driven by the influx of new arrivals into Melbourne.

And in June, The AFRreported that Chinese developers have taken a “virtual stranglehold” of Melbourne’s land supply pipeline, “acquiring more than two-thirds of all big greenfield land parcels offered for sale in the past 18 months”, thereby driving-up prices.

Now we have a textbook example

The 25 hectare farm is about to be swallowed by Melbourne. Picture: Alex Coppel

of why capital city lot values have become so expensive, with three Victorian brothers to pocket $50 million by selling the family farm to a developer in the Melbourne suburb of Mickleham:

Back in 1935, the Troutbecks forked out 500 pounds for a 25 hectare patch of land in the Melbourne suburb of Mickleham, a 45 minute drive from the CBD…

But now their modest weatherboard home and sprawling dairy farm is up for sale and with a number of developers already eyeing off the property, the Troutbeck brothers are expecting a $50 million payday.

Speaking to 7 News, Keith Troutbeck said his dad knew long ago the property was a good investment.

“Dad said, ‘One day, one day you’ll come into a fortune but don’t sell it before you do,” Keith said. “It’s taken a long time to get there hasn’t it?”…

The three elderly farmers, aged between 70 and 82, have worked on the dairy farm their whole lives but are due to close up shop and become multi-millionaires instead…

The sale, which will close next month, is expected to fetch the brother at least $15 million each, a figure Edward initially thought was a “joke”.

“Forty five years I’ve been playing Tatts Lotto and never hit the jackpot,” he said…

When sold, developers are expected to divide the land up into hundreds of residential plots for first homebuyers.

The only reason why the Troutbeck family’s land is worth so much is because the government has rezoned it residential. Therefore, it makes policy sense for the government (taxpayer) to capture some of this value uplift.

Dr Cameron Murray explains how this could be done in his book, Game of Mates.

Essentially, the government would capture 75% of the value gain, payable upon approval of the development application (i.e. approval is conditional upon payment).

So in this case, if the property was worth, say, $5 million as agriculture and $50 million as a housing estate, to get approval for the housing estate the developer would have to pay 0.75 x ($50m – $5m) = $33.75 million. They would account for this and subtract it from their payment for the site, so in the case the Troutbeck family would only get $50m – $33.75m = $16.25 million – still a handsome payday for effectively doing nothing. However, $33.75 million dollars that is pure windfall would now flow to the public.

As an ancillary reform, Melbourne’s urban growth boundary (UGB) should also be removed. This would raise competition and contestability in the land market, and prevent landholders like the Troutbeck family from charging monopoly-style rents. A developer would be free to obtain a cheaper site further afield (i.e. across the old UGB), thus ensuring cheaper land values (and lower cost fringe homes).

Whatever your perspective, the existing setup is clearly not working effectively, resulting in rapid land cost escalation that is ultimately borne by home buyers and the younger generation, all for the benefit of a few lucky landholders effectively handed monopoly-style rents courtesy of the state government.

unconventionaleconomist@hotmail.com

SOURCE:  https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2018/09/farmer-land-baron-thanks-planning-racket/

COLONEL PICKERING’s (Ex Ryde LNP Mayor) pre-planned retirement scheme questioned

PLANNING MINISTER Roberts launched the Parramatta office of Bill Pickering’s lobbying firm Hugo Halliday after it vacated its Gazcorp-subsidised Gladesville office. Among “the mates” are the Gazals!

GAZCORP, one of Australia’s major multi-sector real estate investment firms.

View related article on CAAN Website:

MAY 2014: ICAC: Gazals entertained NSW MPs on luxury yacht but deny paying bribes

OBVIOUSLY the “affordable housing” concept is being rorted by developers hungry to squeeze extra Floor to Space Ratio (FSR) … extra developer space … storey upon storey!

 

Anthony Roberts launching the Parramatta office of his mate Bill PIckering’s lobbying firm Hugo Halliday after it vacated its Gazcorp-subsidised Gladesville officeCOLONEL PICKERING’s pre-planned retirement scheme questioned

 

By The Weekly Times Special Team of Investigative Reporters (TWT STIR Team)

The Colonel, retiring, Ryde mayor Bill Pickering has used the Ryde mayoralty and cited a major development deal hidden from public scrutiny to establish and promote a new housing association he’ll lead as “consulting chief executive”.

Pickering resigned from the Liberal Party, along with sidekick, fellow Ryde councillor, Jane Stott, after the pair’s humiliating defeat in a Liberal Party preselection contest.

They spat the dummy and are now contesting this Saturday’s Ryde Council’s election central ward as Independents. The Colonel must have seen the  writing on the wall, establishing the Housing Supply Association as a “not for profit” company along with its website in late June, but claims the start-up industry body “already has government support”.

Pickering’s longtime mate, NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has given the HSA legitimacy, delivering a keynote address at its launch before 400 guests in Doltone House in late July, hinting the HSA’s members would have preferential access and a say in planning policy.

“We now have for the first time ever a purpose-lead organisation representing industry leaders that are working hand in hand with those seeking affordable housing in government to holistically address the issue of housing supply and affordability,” Roberts told guests.

“I look forward to working closely with the HSA and I would say that if you want a good voice, if you really want to participate in the policy make up, the HSA is a great opportunity for you to do that.”

Company and registration records show the new body was only established in late June this year and there is no record of any contact with Roberts about the HSA in quarterly ministerial diary disclosures since he became NSW Planning Minister early this year.

The irony of recent comments announcing new legislation stripping councils of powers to approve developments between $6m and $30m in value, must have been lost on Roberts, who declared an “end the dodgy and dirty backroom deals” in local councils.

“To the lurk merchants and spivs who inhabit the dark corridors of Council Chambers across Sydney, your trade is done,” Roberts said on his Facebook page.

“Get another job. The NSW Government is done with your corrupt and dodgy behaviour.”

But in the case of his mate Pickering, who has voted numerous times as a Ryde Councillor on matters involving undisclosed interests, Roberts has assisted with more than just a job.

Pickering’s lobbying and public relations firm, Hugo Halliday PR & Marketing Pty Ltd, in Parramatta, from where the HSA will be run, will also become its marketing arm and offer its services to members.

Numerous articles on its website touting for developer business, including one headed: “Developer? Need assistance with your DA approval or opposing community groups?” have recently been removed.

Roberts at the Housing Supply Association launch, telling guests the new body would be able to influence decisions and policy

Pickering told launch guests the catalyst for establishing the HSA was a secret voluntary planning agreement (VPA) with developer Holdmark Property Group he claimed provided up to 70 dwellings for key workers.

Also at the HSA launch was MP Greg Pearce, who was in 2013 sacked as Finance Minister in the O’Farrell government over a conflict of interest and Tony Abboud, the Ryde real estate agent at the centre of the Civic Centre redevelopment controversy.

Pickering said the HSA, to be run from the offices of his lobbying firm, Hugo Halliday PR & Marketing Pty Ltd in Parramatta, “has taken this further” and that he “could influence the situation in Ryde but I wanted to go further”.

“What I’ve been able to do with some very like-minded people …. and I thank Holdmark for their participation previously, (is) to extend this noble and proven achievement that we have in Ryde to the state of NSW,” he said.

The VPA with Holdmark supposedly involves $146m worth of developer contributions including “affordable housing” at its site in Talavera Road, Macquarie Park, to build more than 1,300 units in a development of up to 52 storeys.

But details of the VPA, described by one councillor as “undercooked” have not been publicly released and council’s legal advisors have raised red flags over valuations of developer contributions, the absence of binding guarantees and scheduling of public benefit delivery.

“We negotiated an uplift in our floor space ratio which allowed us to build more space to offset the cost of providing the affordable housing,” Gavin Carrier of Holdmark told Seven News Sydney on the day of the launch.

Curiously, the Holdmark name did not appear on Seven’s report, which only showed the name “Gavin Carrier” and the title “Developer”.

Holdmark’s company name was missing in this Seven news report

Perhaps that was to avoid further antagonising suffering residents in overdeveloped Meadowbank, where Holdmark tried to reinvent its 10 storey development to a whopping 24 storeys, only to have it blocked in January by the Planning and Assessment commission.

SOURCE:  https://weeklytimes.com.au/colonel-pickerings-pre-planned-retirement-scheme-questioned/

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